Who ever came up with the phrase “Father Time” was crazy. In the same time that it takes my husband to alert the whole house that there’s a tiny spill on the floor, I’ve not only cleaned it up, but I’ve finished off a batch of cookies in the oven, folded a load of laundry, and completed a clay mask on my face. If time is a measurement of what transpires over an interval of space, moms invented time. So why is it that we experience a constant unsettling feeling that there just isn’t enough time to get everything done? I know this feeling well. I was trapped in the land of “never enough time.” That is, until I had eleven kids and there wasn’t enough time to think that there wasn’t enough time.
Most of us have inherited some frustrating beliefs about time, and we are going about our lives thinking that stress and overwhelm are just the realities of life. The truth is, stress and overwhelm are actually unconscious habits. I was in Target last week with five of my kids shopping for some art supplies when a mom with a 3-year-old in her cart chased me down to ask me “Are those all your kids?” After pushing her eyeballs back into her head, her follow-up question is one that I get a lot. “How are you so relaxed? I can’t even handle two kids.” I didn’t have the heart to tell her that these five kids weren’t even the half of it. What is my secret? I don’t do overwhelm.
As a busy mom, I use to always feel like when the alarm went off it was as if there was a man off to the side with a gun in the air screaming “ON YOUR MARK, GET SET, GO! Quick! It’s time to drag everyone out of bed, fight with the five-year olds about what color socks they're going to wear, fix three different breakfasts because nobody is in the same mood, throw the bag lunches together and scream at everyone until they are in the car with their seatbelts fastened. Like a glazed doughnut is to a diabetic, so is the thought that “there’s not enough time” to a mom. It gives us permission to act like jerks all in the name of being on time, micromanaging, raising our voices, negotiating with our terrorist toddlers. You spend the whole day making sure that you can earn the relaxation that comes at the end of a well spent day. Only you get to the end of that day to find yourself so tightly wound that it takes ever-increasing amounts of wine to disconnect from that sensation that there is still more work to be done.
It’s easy to see how we become prisoners of time, so here are a few tips to break out of any time trap that you find yourself stuck in:
- Condition a new belief about time.
When I first became aware that it wasn’t a reality that there wasn’t enough time, I started noticing what my thoughts and feelings were around time. I would catch myself thinking things like I don’t have enough, I’m wasting it, or even worse, I need to kill it. We all have thoughts about time, and when we start to believe them, that leads to our actions, and those actions become habits. To change my habit of racing around like a chicken with my head cut off and never being satisfied that I accomplished enough, I wrote down a new empowering belief about time. Mine was “There’s always enough time because I create it.” I would say it in the mirror, in the car, and whenever I found myself afraid of not having enough time. I’ve conditioned myself so well to this belief that it’s the attitude I walk around with about time no matter what I’m doing. Sometimes when I feel rushed, I say this to myself and it automatically calms me down and reminds me that I am responsible for my relationship with time.
- Set yourself up for success
I found my biggest, most consistent breakdowns in the area of time in my day, and put some structure into place to help me. I use to suffer in the mornings getting the kids ready, so I did things like have the kids get their clothes ready the night before, visualize a smooth morning, let them know what time the car was leaving and leave no matter who was missing. You don’t have to become a late person just because you know there is plenty of time.
- Set an intention to have fun
I start my day off telling myself I’m going to have fun. Fun doesn’t care if you are whirling down the mountain on your snowboard or cleaning the garage, fun is an attitude that you bring whenever you decide to. I started telling myself it’s totally appropriate to have fun everywhere I go. I use to feel like my whole day was either racing against a clock, or praying the clock will hurry up and hit 8pm when the kids go to bed, then I realized I was the one thinking I couldn’t have fun doing all those “responsible” things moms do. We work six months straight to earn a week of vacation so we can slow down and have fun, but then we arrive at our tropical paradise and our minds have been so conditioned to the rat race mentality, it’s not something we can easily disengage in. I use to plan every part of the trip to schedule all the fun things to make sure I was going to have enough of it, and then I was hurrying through everything to make sure I crossed it all off I my list - and believe me, it wasn’t fun.
You don't have to do time in a prison. What is your consistent attitudes towards time? Are you waiting until it’s appropriate to have fun? This amazing video cracks me up every time: